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Cambridge Storm Water Basin-Restoration Plans Move Forward for Wildlife and Communities of Cambridge, Arlington, Belmont, Somerville and Metropolitan Boston
Reservation Improvement Plans Move Forward in Cambridge
by Ellen Mass

An amazing wetland Model for New England by the city of Cambridge and MWRA correlates with the state DCR Master Plan for Alewife. Bioengineering Inc., one of the groups will also restore parts of Fresh Pond and the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation Greenway in Arlington and Somerville. The FAR Stream Team will emphasize environmental protection during the process before during and after. The Team will use the recent FAR publication: Biodiversity of the Alewife Reservation Area with its study of ecosystems and the Alewife Ecology Guide of Stewart Sanders as well.

Over 68,000 plants have been chosen as appropriate to the existing ecosystems. The entire storm water project complies with the recent national pollution discharge elimination standards (NPDES) of EPA. The present low flow river and lack of successful hydrology on stagnant marsh lands create invasive conditions. The 'storm water' plan will change all this with moving water and newly constructed marsh ecosystems.

Riparian woodland plantings around the basin and the unusual Alewife spawning oxbow as well as the central nesting island, contain white pine, red oak, gray birch, shadblow serviceberry, northern bayberry, and black huckleberry. Other woodland tree plantings include green ash, swamp white oak, red oak, American elm- disease resistant, tupelo, hazel alder, red maple. Tree height at planting ranges from 6-10 feet.

A large ascending teaching area with around 40 flattened natural boulders and engraved wildlife granite will attract classes. Five hundred low blueberry bushes are planted throughout. Other woodland and popular wildlife plantings are common winterberry, cranberry viburnum, and arrowwood.

Emergent marsh plants of sedges and rushes including over 5000 green and soft stem bulrushes which attract green-wing teal, black ducks, potential rails, sandpipers, song birds, sparrows, and pheasant completing a swamp-shrub ecosystem. Mixed among the marsh is rye, marsh hibiscus, wool and rice grasses. The 5,000 spike rushes produce seed clusters eaten by meadow voles and white footed mice and shrews. Two hundred of these living 'lawn mowers' are sometimes 85 percent of the diet for small hawks and owls.

Sedge meadows are tall enough to remain above the water even when flooded. Voles and animals burrow under the rhizomes. Rails, sparrows, and redpolls are attracted to the rank growth which produce insects and worms. These meadows also bring wrens, swallows and snipes such as woodcock.

Broadleafed floodplain plants include berry arrow arum which attracts wood ducks, rails and other shorebirds. White waterlilies bring beaver, muskrat, ducks and shorebirds.

More blueberries may attract scarlet tanagers, bluebirds, thrushes, various songbirds, fox, both gray and red, chipmunks, deer, rabbit, and birds such as phoebes, titmice and towhee. Other floodplain plants include cinnimon and royal fern, boneset, 124 swamp and 240 New England aster plantings. Geese netting will protect the new plants.

Fertile silts on the emerging marshes will sprout the grasses, herbs and even mushrooms. In the shrub swamp where the pussy willows and alder will be planted, yellow warblers dine on the fluffy seeds from the willow which are water tolerant.

The deep marsh area may give mallards, northern shovellers, pintails, and blue winged teals a place to rest and feed especially on the central oxbow Island where nesting habitat is anticipated.

Alders are plentiful. Gray catbirds chickadees and redpolls use them as well as deer (one sighted) eat twigs and buds of these common Reservation trees. Under the Basin's mud, turtles and frogs will burrow. Ducks and young will tip-end for insects and seed food in plant-filled shallows. Turtles will lay eggs in safer places.

FAR published.

For suggestions or questions, call 617 547-1944 or 617 876-0223

Added to website December 27, 2004